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Tips and suggestions to help you to pull on that once-in-a-lifetime trophy. By Daniel Factor

You can spend a lot of time, money and effort travelling and fishing the entire coastline – the last thing you want is to lose a once-in-a-lifetime fish due to controllable factors: your knots. My suggestion would be to keep it simple. Find knots and a leader that you feel comfortable with, and stick with it.


Basic rules

With saltwater leaders, it’s pretty straightforward. The idea is to construct a basic leader that is strong and has as few weak points as possible. We use short leaders; this helps to turn the larger flies over, and the heavier tippet will be more abrasion-resistant.

I prefer a level section of leader with no knots. As soon as you create knots in your leader section, you create a weak point. Saltwater fish tend to be less leader-shy and live in rougher terrain; this eliminates the necessity of fishing with fine leaders, in most circumstances.

The level section of leader can range from 20lb to 130lb, depending on what you are targeting and where you are fishing. My leaders tend to be the same length as my rod – 9th is more than enough.

On windy days, when the fish may not be as spooky but turning over the fly is difficult, it’s always better to shorten the length of your leader. The shorter leader will turn over easily in the wind. It’s also a good idea to shorten your leader if you are casting a heavy fly or a wind-resistant popper. Big flies or poppers usually don’t require as delicate a presentation as most other patterns.

Otherwise, you can use a simple formula: a 9-12ft leader can be made by tying a 30-40lb leader to a 20-25lb leader, and attaching 2-3ft of 10-15lb leader as a tippet. More specialised leaders can be constructed for specific situations, but it’s always better to keep things simple.

Fluorocarbon vs monofilament

These are the differences:

  • Fluorocarbon is made from a sophisticated polymer; mono is essentially plastic.
  • Fluorocarbon is clearer in water (the refractive index is nearly identical to water).
  • Fluorocarbon is more abrasion-resistant than monofilament.
  • Fluorocarbon has almost no stretch; this makes it easier to set the hook.
  • UV damages monofilament over time, but not fluorocarbon.
  • Monofilament floats; fluorocarbon sinks.
  • Fluorocarbon has a thicker diameter than mono in most situations.

When fishing the surf, there is almost always some sort of chop and a couple of waves. Slack is created by movements of the wave when using a floating line. Fluorocarbon leaders settle below the waves and riffles, eliminating this slack.

The one advantage of mono is that it’s softer and more supple. This allows the fly to swim more naturally and freely. A good compromise for anglers is to use fluorocarbon only as tippet material, with the rest of the leader in mono. This way, the fly doesn’t sink too quickly and you have the advantage of fluorocarbon.

In most situations, I prefer fluorocarbon leaders. The high-abrasion, clarity and low stretch are the factors that tick my boxes.


Leader to fly for those toothy critters

Where sharp-teeth species are around, shock tippets or bite tippets are recommended. Heavy monofilament can be tied to the tippet with an Albright knot, and the fly can be attached with a non-slip mono loop knot for better action.

When attaching a section of wire as a bite trace, you can use either Albright and a haywire twist, or form a loop and attach the leader with a loop knot. Keep the wire as short as possible (15-20cm), and as thin as you possibly can. Heavier wire is more visible and makes it a bit more challenging to cast the fly with a good presentation.